The history of fireworks - how it all started...

Have you ever wondered how and when fireworks were invented? On this page, we inform you on the history of fireworks.

In general, people believe that the monk Berthold Schwarz invented the gunpowder. The ancient chinese, however, already enjoyed colorful fireworks much earlier. It can therefore be assumed, that this art came from China, extending through Near East, Greece and Italy and finally reaching us.

The greek word for fire ("Pyros") was the godfather for the nowadays familiar term "pyrotechnics". The use of pitch and brimstone has already been recorded in the 5th century. The gunpowder was probably invented by the Chinese around 1200 AD, and was rediscovered in Europe around 1400 AD. In the 14th century, people learned to enhance the effect of flames on a burning woodpile by means of rockets.

In Italy, the custom of staging splendid fireworks arose, and finally reached German courts. secular and spiritual leaders vied for the most magnificent colour spectacle. Painters, sculptors and architects were commissioned for their implementation. Their aim was the clever including of castles, palaces, towers, and bridges into the scenery.

Also composers felt inspirated by the fire artworks, e.g. Georg Friedrich Händel for his "Music for the Royal Fireworks" (HWV 351). Over the centuries, from giant court fireworks, pyrotechnicians developed consumer fireworks (F1 and F2 category), which are - affordable for everyone - nowadays indispensable as a New Year's Eve pleasure.

But today, the art of pyrotechnicians is not a secret any more. Reaching deeply into the chemical trick box, he creates marvellous color effects. He conjures up green flames with the use of barium salts, red flames with strontium salts, while aluminium or magnesium powder generate silver sparks in the New Year's Eve nighttime sky.

Other countries - different customs

While burning down fireworks on New Year's Eve has become a fixed custom in Germany, different customs prevail in other countries:

  • in Southern Europe, they "play with the fire" for the Easter festivities,
  • in China, New Year's Eve is the occasion for the marvellous fire spectacle,
  • in Great Britain, Guy Fawkes Day on 5 November is taken as an occasion to stage fireworks, while
  • the French annually celebrate the storming of the Bastille with rockets, crackers and fountains,
  • in Switzerland, it is 1st August - the national holiday - on which fireworks is being shot
  • in the USA, on 4 July they appropriately celebrate "Independence Day" with gigantic fireworks.

Regardless of where in this world people have an occasion:
Celebrating with fireworks is always a true celebration!

Historische Abbildungen
(Originale aus dem NICO-Europe-Archiv)

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